“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”
7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. 36 Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.”
There is this part of all of us, that just long for things to be different. That is what I think of when I think of what it would practically mean to hunger or to thirst, when you aren’t actually talking about food and water.
I think of a void that needs to be filled in our lives, and we look in all sorts of places to find whatever it is that we think will fill us…
Strong’s concordance says of thirst, that it is often used figuratively… for those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened.
But Jesus is saying that you are blessed, not when you fill that void, which we always try so hard and do…
but you are blessed when you have that void.
When you know that something is not there when it should be.
Have you ever encountered a situation, a problem that is so big and all you can think is that “someone has to do something about that!” and you know that in those moments, that person, in fact, is you… but when you look at your life, and your means, and your abilities, and your capacity, in comparison to this massive injustice right in front of your eyes, you come to the hard reality that “there is not really all that much I can do about this.”
Like when your neighbor is losing their home over a tax bill that is small enough that you should be able to do something, but truthfully you don’t have it yourself. But it just seems so absurd to you that someone who has lived in a house for over a decade and paid tens of thousands of dollars in payments and taxes for the last 15 years is about to lose it over a couple of thousand dollars because for whatever reason, this year, the money ran out.
I want to do something about that! But I just genuinely don’t have the money.
But you know that if someone has invested and invested and given their life to something, it just doesn’t seem right that in a moment they could lose it over only a fraction of what they have already given to it.
and it hits even closer to home when it is a friend. Or a parent.
At the end of our block is Vernor, hwy… a stripe of shops in Southwest Detroit and every year on Cinco De Mayo there is a parade.
Two years ago at the parade, a guy they called “Noodles” was shot and killed at the parade, right there on our street… Of course, today is Cinco De Mayo. and as I was walking to the church tonight, I saw that Noodles friends had made him a memorial on the corner. They spray painted on the abandoned theater on the corner “Noodles Ave.” and they set up a memorial with teddy bears and balloons.
We live on that street. That shooting happened a half a block from where our house is.
It just doesn’t feel like it should be that way.
It doesn’t feel like people should be murdered on the same streets that our children ride their bikes, and so for all of us, we long for a day when things truly are just different because it is painfully obvious that things are not as they should be.
Well the beatitude we are studying today is the 4th beatitude, and it says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
The Greek word here for righteousness is “dikaiosynē” (pronounced (de-kay-osk-sune-ay) and it means “in a broad sense: the state of him who is as he ought to be”
It is this idea, and its a very big idea, that things are supposed to be a certain way. and because they are not, we hunger and we thirst for them too be. We are not as we should be… and because we are not, we hunger and thirst because we truly do want to be.
When I look at my life, I long for more. I long for a better relationship with my wife and kids, I long for a better relationship with Jesus.
I am hungry for those things. I am thirsty for them.
But what is so beautiful in this moment that we read with the Samaritan woman is that she finds herself thirsty… and about to be filled. She finds herself coming out of her fifth failed marriage, and now is in this relationship with another man. And it is pretty clear where the relationship with the sixth man is going….
The same place as the first five.
and when I say that, I am not saying that her sixth relationship was necessarily going to fail… but I am saying that yet again she was gaging the success of her life on the outcome of the relationship with this man.
Because it was in these relationships that she fed her needs. It was in these relationships that she tried to quench what it was that she was thirsting for, and we have all been there.
But Jesus looks at this broken woman who knew she had a void, and she knew that the first five husbands didn’t fulfill that ultimate longing… and Jesus says to her:
There is a water that truly satisfies.
and its me.
And everything you have longed for will remain a longing until you realize that you are not longing for a man or a woman. You are not longing for relationship with a person. You are not longing for a paycheck. Or financial security.
You are longing for righteousness.
You are longing for peace in the world where it feels like there is no peace. You are longing for things to be the way that they are supposed to be.
And you are longing for your life to be as it is supposed to be because when you look in the mirror you know that its not.
Think about what happens in Luke chapter 18:9-14
“9 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Here we have two very opposite types of people. And we see this contrast throughout the entire bible. The first person is religious. He doesn’t thirst for righteousness because everything about his life makes him think that he already has it. He doesn’t thirst for anything!!! So the Pharisee prays and starts thanking God… but he doesn’t thank God for how good God is… The Pharisee thanks God for how good the Pharisee is. He basically says “Thank you that I am not like this loser. I tithe. I give. I fast. I am the man. Thank you that I am the man!”
and then this other person, who is described as a tax collector… he stands back.
He honors the weight of the glory of God so much that he doesn’t even feel worthy to be near it. So he stands in the back and he beats his breast and begs for mercy because he is a sinner.
The man knows that collecting taxes has not filled his void. He is thirsty for something that he can’t achieve on his own.
Think about it. If righteousness is essentially “the way things ought to be” then the person who hungers and thirsts for it has to be the person who knows they aren’t as they ought to be.
It is salvation.
and it takes a person who is poor in spirit to get there. First you have to know you don’t have it on your own, before you can hunger and thirst for what it actually is… If Being poor in spirit is knowing that you aren’t what you should be… then hungering and thirsting for righteousness is the innate and deep desire for God to solve the “poor in spirit” problem in your life. Remember, these are not things we can necessarily attain. They are all forms of brokenness.
Unlike the beatitude we studied last week, “Blessed are the meek,” this particular beatitude is also addressed in Luke’s gospel, again, in a more practical way, and again, it is delivered alongside a woe.
Luke 6:21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
Luke 6:25 “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.
Simon Tugwell in his book “The beatitudes” makes this immediate observation of the way that Luke puts this particular one… he says this:
“The immediate sense of this is so embarrassingly obvious that it excludes even the possibility of commentary. It is part of the radical upturning of everything announced by our Lord, and summed up in the devastating principle that ‘the last shall be first and the first shall be last.’” (Matt.20:16)
Most of us, myself included, grew up with these beatitudes and we tried to make sense of them. We tried to figure out how this lines up with the life that we wanted to have and we just sort of assume that Jesus came to give us that life. But then we get to things like “blessed are those who mourn” and you start to wonder, “Do I actually want what Jesus is offering?”
Do I want to be hungry now? Or do I want to be full?
It is a counter intuitive Kingdom. And if you are having trouble with it now, on the first four beatitudes, then what will happen when you get to number 8? When “blessed are those who are persecuted for my names sake…”?
The rewards aren’t always imminent. The language is pretty clear:
The first and the last say “Theirs is.” and one of those has to be persecuted to get it.
But the middle six say “They shall.”
Life in the Kingdom of heaven is blessed. But its not blessed because everything goes our way all the time, its blessed because Jesus has something bigger for you… and you have something bigger for our world. You have A way to pick up the broken pieces of our fragmented society because you know what it means to be fragmented yourself. You know what it means to long for what should be, knowing that times are only going to get more and more vile until the day Jesus returns.
But it is your longing that will draw people to Jesus. and if you can’t understand your life in the context of the Kingdom of heaven for any other reason than please understand this… what Jesus did for you, he wants to do for everybody. And your life is supposed to be a testimony for what Jesus is capable of.
He could give you what you want, and sometimes he does. But he died to give you what you need. and that is enough to fill the void.
The Samaritan woman could have left with a thirst that was quenched but she would be thirsty again in no time. But did you notice when we read it the first time, she left thirsty?
She left satisfied with a water that will never run dry… but the bible says that she left her water jar there, at the well.
Jesus promised her something different.
In fact, Jesus gave her something entirely different than what she came for. He didn’t give her what she wanted, plus what we all know that ultimately she needed.
He only gave her living water.
and Jesus treated himself the same way.
He himself lived by it.
When the disciples asked Jesus to eat… they told him he needs to eat something… what does he say?
“I have food that you do not know about.”
and they are like, What the heck? Did Jesus go to a BBQ before this? Did he stop somewhere along the way?
“then he went on to say: ““My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
Jesus knew that the longings of man are temporal. They can be quenched, and they can be filled, but they will leave you void again when a little time passes and you have not fulfilled those longings again because the way we fill ourselves only lasts for a moment.. But when he does the work of the Father, and he is reconciling people, and he is loving people, and he is on this pathway to the most gracious act in human history… that was food to Jesus.
And then he begins to talk about a field. and about how everybody sows and reaps… and there is a lot in the bible about this. Jesus has a lot to say about sowing and reaping but what he says here, in regards to eternal life, is so so significant. He has sent you to reap that for which you did not labor.
He wants us to be thirsty. He wants us to be hungry. So that he can fill us.
He came for the Samaritan woman who was about to be on her 6th marriage, and everything about her life didn’t line up with the straight and narrow path that everybody seemed to think was required to receive the grace of God but it was in her thirst that he was able to meet her.
and the bible says that many Samaritans came to Jesus that day. and they believed.
Because a woman who came to a well broken, left it whole. and it spoke volumes to her community because she had never been whole before.
Not only did Jesus know everything about her, but he gave her something new without punishing what he knew that she was.
Because ultimately, she was thirsty.
and she left without water, but she was satisfied.
and blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.